July 02, 2006

Totally like whatever, you know?

See the excellent poem below by Taylor Mali. Or listen to it at Soapbox, part 2, at the very end of 24 minutes of excellent political discourse, clips from the last several president's inaugurations, and literary eloquence. Mali gives an outstanding reading. Very entertaining and fun.

20 years ago, one of my friend's mothers, an actress who disassembled the emotion behind every word, and then reconstructed it in new and real ways that always seemed so much richer than what had existed before, hated it when we said "like." I remember she wouldn't allow us to say it. Got upset every time. Said we weren't committing to our words. And what was the point of speaking if we couldn't commit to our words? Once in a magazine, I remember an interview with her, where the opening paragraph describing her said she had the courage to live the contradictions of her life. I remembered all those years of her berating us over and over for "like" and "whatever" and "you know?" when I saw the article, and again hearing Taylor do his reading in Soapbox. I agreed with her, but I felt too tentative then to have the courage she had. It was hard for me to give up the words that let me off the hook a little. But she and Taylor are both right. If you're going to do anything worthwhile. You have to commit in your words to yourself.

Totally like whatever, you know?
By Taylor Mali

In case you hadn't noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you're talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you're saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)'s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren't, like, questions? You know?

Declarative sentences - so-called
because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true
as opposed to other things which were, like, not -
have been infected by a totally hip
and tragically cool interrogative tone? You know?
Like, don't think I'm uncool just because I've noticed this;
this is just like the word on the street, you know?
It's like what I've heard?
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions, okay?
I'm just inviting you to join me in my uncertainty?

What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?
Have they been, like, chopped down
with the rest of the rain forest?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?
Has society become so, like, totally . . .
I mean absolutely . . . You know?
That we've just gotten to the point where it's just, like . . .

And so actually our disarticulation . . . ness
is just a clever sort of . . . thing
to disguise the fact that we've become
the most aggressively inarticulate generation
to come along since . . .
you know, a long, long time ago!

I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too.

Posted by Mary Hodder at July 2, 2006 10:55 PM | TrackBack

I posted a poem by Mali nearly 3 years ago, called "What Teachers Make." I still love it.

Posted by: Liz Lawley at July 6, 2006 08:10 PM